[Volume 1 has already ended. Next chapter will be the first chapter of Volume 2. This chapter focuses on Karna's backstory. His entire life based on the epic Mahabharata. Hope you enjoy it. It'll help you understand a lot of the reason behind Karna's personality. Though his personality is now changing and it faced a massive change in the last chapter. Note that Karna's past that's shown in this chapter is his backstory according to the version of the Nasuverse, to which I have made no changes. ]
The Son of the Sun God, the Invulnerable Hero of the Indian epic Mahabharata, is a hero on the vanquished side. The central conflict of The Mahabharata is the war over influence between the Pandava royal family and Kaurava royal family. Karna became famous as the rival of Arjuna, the great Hero of Hindu mythology.
Karna was born from the daughter of a human king, Kunti, and the Sun God, Surya. Kunti was the wife of the Kuru King Pandu, but he was under a curse that prevented him from producing children. His curse prevented him from having sexual relations with any woman, if he ever did it, then he would certainly die. So his queens each had no choice but to use other methods to bear children.
During her teenage years, Kunti had received a Divine Mantra that allowed her to invoke any God and bear their child through a powerful Miracle. She could use this mantra a total of six times. [A/N: Note that Kunti remained a virgin for her entire life, so the Pandavas and Karna weren't born by sex. But rather through the mantra.]
By using the mantra, she gave birth to the Pandu children, the five Pandavas. But before she became the King's wife, she tested the mantra and invoked the Sun God, Surya, who granted her a beautiful son. That child was Karna, the golden hero who was born from Kunti's use of the mantra and invoking the Sun God Surya. Kunti was a determined woman and, afraid of her first birth and anxiety over whether the God would acknowledge his own child.
"I want proof that this child is your son." Kunti prayed to the Sun God.
Surya heard Kunti's words and gave to the child, as he was born, his own power and attributes. As proof of being the son of Surya, he was given a golden armor and earring(Kavacha and Kundala) and this is the source of the golden armor that made Karna invulnerable. Karna was born to become a great hero. Though she was shown such grace and faithfulness, Kunti abandoned her first son.
For her, who was to become the Queen of Kuru King Pandu, the existence of her son was nothing but necessary. Since Karna was born before her marriage. Fearing outrage and backlash from society over her premarital pregnancy, Kunti abandoned the newly born Karna adrift in a basket on the Ganges, in the hope that he finds foster parents.
This is how Karna, who was thrown away by his own mother, came to be ignorant of his own birth, but he lived with only the things he had been given by his father, the Sun God Surya, held in his chest. Karna was raised by two people, a male and a female. Who belonged to the lowest class of society, the Shudra (servant class). Though Karna was actually born a Kshatriya (military or royalty), since he was raised by them he was also included as a Shudra and grew up in the lowest class of society.
The form of Karna, who didn't know his own mother's face and who questioned whether his mother was motivated by dishonesty, couldn't be called beautiful. Though he possessed his father's brilliant authority, his form was stained black. His countenance was cruel, and his every action was violent. Because of his lack of human mother, he didn't learn the subtleties of human emotion and spent his days being considered a nuisance by the people around him.
That was how Karna was raised, but he didn't hate his mother or his surroundings. Instead, he accepted everything. His mother and father were the ones who gave him life so he thought that no matter what kind of person his mother was, he did not hold contempt for her, as if there is anything he had to hate was himself alone. In contrast to his appearance, Karna was an exceedingly virtuous and perceptive child.
Possibly the cause of that was because, while he was the child of a God, he was also a child without a single relative. Karna was blessed with the opportunity to question the poor, their lives, and their value. He had seen very own eyes and experienced himself how cruel the society truly was. The poor and lower caste members of society weren't even considered humans, treated like cattles by the upper caste.
As a result, he chose, of his own free will, the path where he persisted in his own fastidiousness. He believed that as he was born with more than people, he should display a 'proof of my life' greater than those of people, if he doesn't do so, the people without power will not be rewarded, who will forever be treated as animals.
What Karna had was simply the conviction to live without bringing dishonor to his father's authority and without shaming the people who compensated him. "Though he may be relentless and ruthless, he is also full of majesty," is Karna's stance given form.
Sage Parashurama was the sixth avatar of the God Vishnu, who appeared on the Earth during a time of overwhelming evil. The Kshatriya class, with weapons and power, had begun to abuse their power, take what belonged to others by force and tyrannise people. Parashurama corrects the cosmic equilibrium by destroying these Kshatriya warriors. He is also the Guru of Bhishma, Dronacharya and Karna.
As a child, Karna approached Sage Parashurama, to become his student. But Sage Parashurama had only one condition. That he only took Brahmins as students, so Karna must also be a Brahmin. The Brahmin are the highest Hindu caste and the Shudra were the lowest. The Brahmins are the caste from which Hindu priests are drawn, and are responsible for teaching and maintaining sacred knowledge.
Karna had approached a lot of people including Sage Dronacharya, but all of them rejected him due to him being a Shudra. He knew that there was no teacher better than Parashurama, so at that time, for the first and last time in his life, Karna lied and introduced himself as a Brahmin. But this one lie would one day come to bite back Karna in the form of a curse later in his life. Through rigorous training, Karna inherited Parashurama's sacred teachings and Divine Astras. He became Parashurama's greatest student with his talent and hard work.
After finishing his tutelage under Parashurama, Karna, who had grown up to be a young man, participated in a conference of the Kuru family. At this conference, the five Pandava brothers indulged themselves in the martial arts they were so proud of and so famous for.
The third son Arjuna's skill at the bow was especially magnificent, to the point that he was praised as having no equal. When the grounds were united as one voice looking for someone to equal the Pandavas, Karna leapt up to participate and displayed martial arts of the same rank as Arjuna's.
Karna challenged Arjuna to determine which of them was superior. But to challenge Arjuna, a member of the royal family, one must be higher than a Kshatriya (military or royalty) and Karna seemed to be a Shudra (a servant). Karna, whose challenge was refused due to the difference in status, became a laughingstock.
The one who saved Karna in this situation was the eldest of the one hundred princes of the Kaurava clan, who opposed the Pandavas, Duryodhana. He became interested in Karna and made him a king at that place. Though Duryodhana was only interested in Karna's power at first, later their friendship bloomed d
into something genuine and beautiful.
This is how Karna was saved from disgrace, but his foster father, who had heard of his promotion, appeared and established his origins. The five Pandava brothers further ridiculed Karna, who displayed martial arts superior to their own, saying, "The son of a charioteer should have a sense of shame." These words enraged Karna.
If it were about himself, he would accept and be resigned to anything, but he would not allow insults toward his foster father. Even if it was a foster father who announced himself out of greed, to Karna, he was the father who raised him, who Karna should take pride in. The antagonism between Karna and the five Pandava brothers had become something he could not step back from, but sunset had come and the curtain was drawn on the conference. From then on, Karna, as the friend of Duryodhana, who saved him and treated him as a king, lived as a guest of honor of the one hundred princes of the Kaurava clan.
What awaited him beyond that was a cruel battle against the five Pandava brothers, and more specifically, against the great hero Arjuna. The antagonism between the Kauravas whom Karna entrusted his bow as a soldier and the Pandavas that Arjuna led intensified and finally became a war with their territory in the balance. That war is called the Kurukshetra War, and that is where Karna's life came to an end.
Karna continued to wield his strength so that the one hundred Kaurava princes, and consequently Duryodhana, would be victorious. On the Pandava side, the only one who could oppose Karna was Arjuna, but even Arjuna could only be resigned to the fact that facing Karna directly was death.
Later, fate played it's cruel whims once again and started weakening out Karna. Parashurama had lcome to know that Karna was not a Brahmin and cursed him. The curse was that Karna shall never be victorious against someone equal to himself. And though Arjuna was inferior to Karna in every way, because of the massive amounts of boons he had received and combined with the favour and blessings of the Gods, he was considered as someone equal to Karna. At that time, Karna swore to the himself that he will never deny a request from a Brahmin.
Through several conflicts, pretexts, and mutual hatred, the war between this two camps arrived at Kurukshetra. Things having reached this point, Karna's mother, Kunti, wagered one last gamble: to reveal his lineage to Karna and draw him to the Pandava camp. Kunti told only Krishna, who was a friend of Arjuna in the guise of a normal person, of this situation, and the two of them went alone to meet Karna.
Kunti revealed that she was Karna's mother, spoke how fighting with the five Pandava brothers would yield no benefits whilst weeping, and persuaded him that by fighting together with Arjuna, he would attain glory. Karna, without failing to show hospitality to the friend of his arch-enemy Arjuna, Krishna, quietly listened to his mother's arguments.
Afterwards he said: "I understand your words. To join hands with the five brothers and return to my proper form. That would be a story filled with light, without a single fault." Then, facing the rejoicing Kunti, Karna continued speaking in an even softer voice: "But I wish for you to answer one thing. Do you not feel that those words of yours were too late?" She was too late in declaring she was his mother. She was too late in looking back upon Karna.
"If you do not feel that this is a shame, then please answer. You, who declare yourself my mother, if you yourself have done no wrong, then accept the past without feeling ashamed of yourself."
While Kunti was a selfish woman, that was due to her natural innocence and simple-mindedness; she was most definitely not a shameless woman. She knew her own deeds, throwing away Karna, who had just been born, for her own sake, were full of selfishness and reproached herself for that. And for that reason, she possessed a minimum amount of pride.
She could not tell to Karna, who had been raised alone until now, who was grateful to his foster family, who had never once embraced hatred toward another, a horrible lie. Kunti broke off the negotiation without answering.
"That is a deception, a complacent love. The only one your love can save is you. Your love is directed at no one but yourself. But I shall answer that feeling. From here on, during the war, I will not kill any of the brothers who come to match me. I will only use all my power against my arch-enemy Arjuna." Karna said to Kunti, as she stood with her head hanging.
Karna swore not to lay a hand on the brothers of the Pandava family who were inferior to him in strength. The countless times Karna allowed the five brothers to go after this was due to this pledge. After that he concluded: "Return to the place that you obtained with your own hands ...Though it was only once, I am grateful that you called me your son." Karna opened the castle gate and escorted Kunti out.
That was the love that Karna bore for his mother, Kunti. It was not love for his mother at this late point in time but Kunti's resolution to raise "her feelings as mother" in the end...even if it wasn't genuine...that is what he answered. Kunti risked the danger of having her past come to light. To the Hero of Generosity; Karna, such determination is worthy of compensation.
And so, just before the final battle. Arjuna's father; Indra, the Thunder God, who understood that Karna could not be persuaded, took the form of a Brahmin, approaches Karna, and takes his golden armor. Karna knew the Brahmin was actually Indra in disguise, but since he was in a Brahman's form, Karna couldn't turn away from his promise of denying a Brhamin's request.
Though Karna had lost the property of being unkillable that he received from his father, he never said he would stop proceeding to the battlefield. He did not care that when he had lost his golden armor, he had hastened his own death.
Indra, who was touched by how gallant a figure Karna struck, asked why. Why did he continue to the battlefield, having lost his armor, but without reproaching Indra, who had hatched this scheme out of love for Arjuna?
"There is no need to hate you. It is simply a matter of being a step ahead. In fact--yes. Though you are a god, you are also a father. Such a thing brings me joy." Karna answered Indra.
"Then why do you advance toward the battlefield?" asked Indra, to which Karna responded: "To me, defeat is bringing shame upon my father. Even though death awaits me, I cannot run away." That was how Karna always lived. To him, who lived his life with pride in those who gave him life and raised him, his life was not his own.
Indra tried to persuade Karna to leave the side of Kauravas. Explaining that Duryodhana was evil and someone as righteous as Karna shouldn't stand at Duryodhana's side.
"I owe Duryodhana a debt. For some reason, that impudent and timid man is so bright to me. It may be blasphemy against my father but, occasionally, I feel that sweet light is the warmth of the sun."
The light and warmth Karna saw in Duryodhana was not the fire of the Sun that Karna carried nor the absolute brilliance of Surya. To Karna, the Sun was the imperfect charm that humans displayed. Indra, who saw the Divinity of Surya himself in that form, gave Karna his spear.
He had taken from this noble hero something greater than his life. Unless he gave something as compensation, his honor would be stained; above all—he was charmed with him: if it were this man, he could wield the greatest spear, that Indra had not given even to his own son, that even Indra himself was unable to handle. After Karna sent off Indra and having lost his armor (flesh), he headed to the battlefield, as thin as a ghost.
The final battle with Arjuna. Karna was already without allies; his charioteer, whom he trusted with his body, was already an enemy, in collusion with the Pandavas. He had a large number of heavy burdens, his feelings towards his younger half-brothers. Due to his curse, the wheel of Karna's chariot was stuck in a rut. Karna left his bow and got down to try and life the chariot, but his curse forced the chariot to remain stuck.
The string of Arjuna's bow was drawn back to its limits, he could only use this opportunity to defeat Karna, whose skill far surpasses Arjuna. These brothers who, for a long time, were manipulated by an unseen and cruel destiny to compete for supremacy, could only in this moment strike one another with all their might and sure enough, Arjuna's bow shot down the Sun. However, Karna did not hate anyone and accepted his death.
After the battle, the Pandavas were ordered by their uncle to perform funeral rites for all of the dead, including Karna. Upon finding Karna's dead body, their mother Kunti started crying for the son she abandoned. The Panadavas were puzzled about why she was crying over a lowborn son of a charioteer. This remark enraged Kunti and she revealed that Karna was their eldest brother.
The Pandavas, especially Arjuna, were horrified at the fact that they had committed fratricide. The eldest of the Pandava, Yudhisthira, lamented about the fact that if she had not kept the secret from them, then the relationship between the Pandavas and the Kauravas wouldn't have soured to the point of a catastrophic war. If Kunti hadn't kept it a secret, then the war could've been averted and millions of lives could've been spared. So, in his rage and grief, he cursed Kunti and all women of the world that they shall never be able to keep secrets.
After his death, Karna became one with his father Surya. Called "The Hero of Generosity", he was a saint with the creed of not refusing when people came to ask or rely on him. Called "The Hero of Charity", he gave away all of his wealth to the poor and needy so that they may live a better life and always helped them regardless of their troubles may be. The hero who, while possessing exceedingly high abilities, was within a tragedy where he was the enemy of his brothers by blood, received various curses, and lost his life without showing his true worth—that is Karna.
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